National Nutrition Month® was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as an annual campaign to use the month of March as a time to reflect upon the importance of healthy food choices, eating habits, and physical activity habits. For many people, the food choices we make and the habits we have surrounding how we enjoy food were taught to us early in our lives and have become ingrained in our daily routine. But intentionally examining our food choices and eating habits and replacing the unhealthy ones with healthier ones can create new habits.
While healthy eating can seem daunting at first, once you know the basic guidelines and discover some favorites, you will likely find it much easier than anticipated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses the following guidelines to define a healthy eating plan:
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
- Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
- Stays within your daily calorie needs
These healthy eating guidelines leave a wide array of foods to choose from. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen, or canned depending on your tastes, growing season availability, and convenience. Dairy products can be anything from a glass of milk, to yogurt, to cheese. And protein can be consumed from meat or non-meat sources.
A large portion of nutrition focuses on what you eat, but it is also important to consider how you eat and treat other aspects of your overall health. According to Healthline, you should also follow these additional health tips to keep every aspect of your nutritional needs in top condition:
- Slow Down. Don’t eat while you are on the run and turn off distractions. Focusing on your meal and eating at a slower rate of speed allows your stomach to communicate with you brain, ensuring you stop eating when you are full.
- Eat a Variety of Foods. Try different foods in different ways to keep your taste buds, and you, interested. Something as simple as a change in seasoning might alter your perspective on certain foods.
- Cook at Home More Often. Not only is cooking at home better for your budget, but cooking your own food allows you to know everything that’s in it. You can also try healthier ways of cooking such as baking or roasting.
- Monitor Portion Sizes. Check your portion size by weighing or measuring to make sure you are only consuming the number of calories that you think you are consuming. Utilizing smaller plates has been shown to affect how much you eat and help you feel full longer.
- Don’t Shop Without a List. When you go shopping you should have a list of what you need. This can help you to resist the temptation to buy things impulsively and purchase the healthy food you intended to purchase.
- Drink Water. Water is essential and an important component of overall health. Studies have shown that drinking enough water may benefit weight loss and weight maintenance, increase the number of calories you burn, and reduce appetite. Additionally, drinking water instead of other beverages can reduce your sugar and calorie intake.
- Be More Active. Pairing good nutrition with exercise can help to ensure you receive maximum benefit from the fuel your body is consuming, as well as maximizing the positive benefits of each component, especially when it comes to improving your mood.
- Get Enough Sleep. Getting enough sleep is important to overall health and plays a role in nutritional health. Sleep deprivation has also been found to disrupt appetite regulation and negatively affect metabolism.
It is key to remember that foods and beverages are the fuel that gives our bodies energy. If we choose them with intention, we can more efficiently and effectively fuel our bodies.